Chances for finding new drivers ‘very negative,’ researcher says

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Trucking’s driver shortage will grow next year and beyond because of fewer new hires to replace retiring drivers, a smaller number of illegal aliens and regulations removing truckers, an FTR Associates economist said at an online meeting Thursday, June 9.

Saying it will be “very negative” for finding new drivers, FTR senior consultant Noel Perry said that with the end of the Baby Boom generation, the number of people available to trucking to replace those retiring will drop to about 500,000 a year from 1.5 million previously. He added that tougher immigration laws will keep many other potential drivers out of trucks compared with the last decade.

In addition, many truckers who were laid off during the recession either have left the industry or have found jobs with other carriers, Perry said. “It’s going to be fundamentally harder to recruit people before we talk about anything else,” he said.

Take away about 300,000 drivers who will be forced to the sidelines because of poor driving records, and the driver shortage will grow from about 150,000 positions this year to 300,000 next year and almost 350,000 in 2013, Perry estimated.

Perry said that productivity gains, primarily by shippers and receivers making changes in their operations, could absorb a large piece of the impact of the driver shortage. But many shippers aren’t convinced of the problem’s size and haven’t acted, which could change quickly if shortages begin appearing, he said.

On rates, Perry forecast a 9 to 10 percent rise by the end of this year and double-digit increases next year and in 2013, including fuel surcharges. On truck purchases, fleets of 500 trucks and more have the money and are buying replacement trucks, but smaller fleets have less cash and aren’t buying as many trucks, he said.